Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned Australian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  The opening race of the season is always exciting for Formula One. This year, it followed one of the most intriguing off seasons, with the sale of F1 to an American media company and the unexpected  retirement of a young champion.          

The Event:  The race has been held in Melbourne (pronounced “Mel – Bun”) since 1996 when it was moved from Adelaide and has been the first race of the Formula One season since. The course follows a circle around Albert Park Lake, which allows for sweeping turns, few straights, and almost no overtaking. They draw about 300,000 for the race annually with around 100,000 spectators on race day.

In Our Last Episode:  Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the final race in Abu Dhabi over teammate and eventual champion Nico Rosberg. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took third.

Qualifying:  Lewis Hamilton took his 62nd pole by narrowly beating the resurgent Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to make for a very exciting front row.

Start: The first start was aborted, which is embarrassing if you consider yourself the very pinnacle of motorsport, as they clearly do. The second start was okay, with Hamilton leading into the first corner and beyond. Not too shabby.

Race:  Lewis Hamilton was unable to build much of a margin over the then second place Vettel after a good start. The Mercedes engineers were quickly able to determine his tires were the culprit due to degrading and losing grip. So, the decision was made to pit Hamilton early, ahead of Vettel, with a hope they could make back the time. Unfortunately, fifth place Max Verstappen decided the best thing to do was to obstruct Hamilton, which meant that his fight to take second place was a battle royale. Vettel built a huge nine second lead over the field which meant they finished Vettel, Hamilton, and Bottas.

Best Team:  Despite not taking the win, Mercedes was the best team at Australia. Whether it was Valtterri Bottas’ nearly seamless integration taking over for Nico Rosberg, or Hamilton’s pole position, or dominating the podium with two of the three places, Mercedes was the class of the field. Ferrari is not quite there – yet. 

Biggest Surprise: Sauber and Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi filled in for full-time Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein thus making his Formula One debut, finishing sixteenth. Wehrlein was said to not be in top shape due to previously suffered racing injuries.

What We Will Remember:  The return of Ferrari as a factor in F1 racing, finally. It’s too soon to tell if this is for now on or for just one race. But Ferrari as a brand and as a team enjoys enormous popularity throughout the world. So, in a way, what’s good for Ferrari is good for Formula One.

Quote of the Weekend: “It’s been a great day for us. The team has been working so hard at the track as much as back at the factory. It’s a great feeling. “Grazie mille”, you can’t say much more. The last months have been really intense, it’s been tough to get into the rhythm. It’s just the beginning and there’s still a lot of work going on. This is one of many steps and we have to enjoy what we do. It’s great to see people smiling. Now we have to reset to go to China and try to do a good job.” Sebastian Vettel, on his first win since Singapore in 2015.

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend: “If it wasn’t already clear after qualifying, then it’s certainly clear now that this is going to be a season of very small margins. We got a good getaway from the flag. But credit to Ferrari today, they had a very quick car and we just weren’t quite good enough to stick with them. We won’t panic, though. It’s race one of a long season and we scored some very good points with both cars today. We’ll be determined to come back stronger in China and make sure those small margins go our way next time.” Mercedes Technical Director James Allison, replacing Paddy Lowe, who moved to Williams.

2nd Runner Up Quote of the Weekend: “Overall great weekend! Not the race we had hoped for, but the team did an amazing job getting us to the podium. Looking forward to China, and a proper fight ahead of us this season! Congrats to Seb! @mercedesamgf1 #AustralianGP #TeamLH x @suttonimages.” Three-time Champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished second.

Schedule:  Only two more weeks until the Chinese Grand Prix on April 9th at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

RAPID REACTION: Las Vegas

The first race of NASCAR’s annual trip to the west coast came with more excitement than many expected at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A low downforce aero package and crazy weather made for an unpredictable race, which gave way to an exciting battle to the finish. Brad Keselowski passed his teammate Joey Logano and reeled in Kyle Busch with six laps to go to grab his first victory of the season.

Here are five major takeaways from Sunday’s race:

Desert Storm

NASCAR enjoyed a beautiful start to the season at both Daytona and Atlanta with warm weather and sunny skies. Las Vegas brought everyone back to reality, with wind gusts nearing 40 miles an hour during the entire race. Small rain showers came and went throughout, but a dust storm moved through the racetrack and limited visibility for an extended period of time.

The wind changed directions during the race and posed a serious challenge for the drivers, as it was it much more difficult for them to judge the handling of their race cars. The wind also blew tremendous amounts of debris on the track, creating a nightmare as trash collected on drivers’ grilles.

Busch Rolls the Dice

The No. 18 team elected to take left side tires only on the final pit stop of the race and came out sixth for the ensuing restart. Busch made a daring move to the high side and propelled himself to third out of Turn 2. He then took the leaders Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano three wide into Turn 3 and came out the leader before a crash brought out the yellow.

It seemed he was destined to grab his first victory of the season, but his right side tires began to wear down as the run progressed. Busch’s lap times began to fall off as he approached traffic and gave the lead up to the much faster Keselowski with six laps to go.

He continued to fade in the closing laps and was edged out by Jimmie Johnson at the line to finish fourth.

Rookies Rising

Ryan Blaney has proven himself in the Truck Series and XFINITY Series and continued to do so on Sunday. Blaney raced amongst the leaders all afternoon and drove like there were no rookie stripes on the back of his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. He remained patient all day and grabbed the historic race team a sixth place finish.

Chase Elliott found himself in a similar situation as he drove around the top-10 all afternoon. His efforts looked like they would pay off with a strong finish, but he found himself caught up in a crash with Matt Kenseth with 43 laps to go.

After two wrecks and two finishes worse than 35th, Elliott beat up on himself for getting collected in the mayhem. His performance in each race this season has been better than anyone could have expected and can still hang his hat on a top-10 at Atlanta.

Kenseth Woes Continue

For three weeks in a row, Matt Kenseth has had a solid run going and had a miscue that’s ruined his day. At Las Vegas, his day was cut short when he got loose going into turn one with 34 laps to go and lost control of his car. As he slid up the track, his car was rear-ended by Chase Elliott and was sent to the garage.

While the season is only young, this isn’t a good trend for the No.20 Dollar General team. They have no momentum on their side while nearly every other major Toyota team has been excelling to start the season.

Roush Resurgence

Every car in the Roush Fenway Racing stable finished inside the top-20 Sunday. While that may not sound like much, it’s an impressive feat for an organization that’s been on a downward slide for several years.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has two top-15 finishes this season after battling for a 12th place finish on Sunday. While his teammates aren’t performing on quite the same level as him, all it can take is one team to get an organization headed back in the right direction.

Time of Race: 2:53:55

Cautions: 6 for 36 laps

Top-10 Finishers:

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Jimmie Johnson
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Austin Dillon
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Kevin Harvick
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9. Kurt Busch
  10. Kasey Kahne

2016 Race Winners: Denny Hamlin (1), Jimmie Johnson (1), Brad Keselowski (1)

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Jones Again Forced to Fight Back from Early Race Woes

For the second week in a row, Erik Jones was left to wonder about what could have been after having to overcome an early-race miscue.

The No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota was running second when Jones was penalized for speeding on pit road during a green flag stop on Lap 55. While the mistake threw a monkey wrench into his efforts, his car was fast enough to get back on the lead lap and challenge the leaders.

His chances of getting back in contention were squandered, however, after he was caught speeding during his pass-through penalty. The sequence of pit stops left him two laps down in 23rd with plenty of lapped traffic to maneuver.

The 19-year-old driver wasn’t necessarily trying to push the limits though, as his dashboard was most likely miscalibrated.

“Obviously, you have that five mile an hour buffer on pit road and when I ran our set of lights that we’re supposed to run, sped, I went down to the next set of lights and still sped,” Jones said. “So then at that point, I was running the lights that are supposed to be pit road speed – 45 miles an hour – and that was when we were safe. I’m guessing we just miscalibrated something along the way and that’s something we’ll have to look into it.”

The mistake served as motivation for Jones, who quickly regained his focus and did everything he could to get back on the lead lap.

“I was pretty angry at that point and I think that, at times, can produce speed,” he admitted. “For me, I was just locked in and focused on going as fast as I could to try to get ourselves in a position to get back in it. I didn’t really know the whole situation at times, I didn’t know where we had to be, but as long as I drove as hard as I could and as fast as I could, that we try to get ourselves in the best position possible and at least have a shot somewhere along the way.”

Cautions played a significant role in his fate, as he took the wave around on one and then received the lucky dog with 64 laps to go. From there, he needed to make up for his pit road hiccups.

Jones had no trouble working his way back up into the top three and prepared to battle his teammates Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch. However, he used up his tires getting through the field, and without another caution, he ended up third.

“Settled in for third at that point and kind of rode the rest of the race out,” Jones said. “I would have loved another caution, said the same thing last week, but would have loved another caution to re-rack everybody and get some tires on it and make one more adjustment. I kind of had a better idea of what I needed in the car. Just getting in some clean air finally.”

While a third-place finish isn’t necessarily the desired outcome, Jones has plenty of time to grab a win to get into the XFINITY Series Chase. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates are as stout as he is, which may make it tough for him to achieve the goal.

Jones expects to have another strong run at Phoenix, where a mistake-free day might give him a chance to beat Busch.

“I just want a fair shot at the guy,” he quipped post-race. “I keep having to pass the whole field three times to even get close to him so hopefully next week we can have our first shot.”

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Wallace, Marks Walk Away from Vicious Vegas Crash

A vicious late-race crash brought out a 19-minute red flag and ended several top contenders’ day during the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

With 65 laps to go, the lapped car of Cody Ware spun at the top of Turn 2 and hit the outside wall. When he was unable to keep his No. 25 Chevrolet against the wall, the car slid down the track in front of oncoming traffic and calamity ensued.

Drivers had little time to react, and Darrell Wallace Jr. drilled the side of his No. 6 Ford Mustang into Ware. While trying to avoid the crash, Justin Marks lost control and hit the outside wall before slamming Wallace hard in the driver’s side.

Although both had been running in the top 10, the hard crash left Wallace and Marks with nothing to show for it. Wallace, who was worried about hitting his marks and battling the traffic around him, said there was nothing he could do to avoid the accident.

“We were running our own race there,” Wallace said, after being released from the care center. “I think the 98 was inside of us there and got us clear so we were focused on him. By the time we had seen the 25 it was too late; I was already pinched sideways. It was a helluva hit, but I just thank the Lord that we all walked away okay.

“That second impact was pretty big too but I’m here talking to you, I’m all good. I just hate it for my guys; we were improving on our Ford Mustang all day and it’s such a bummer. I was having so much fun and 10 laps ago I was like, ‘This place is good to me,’ and I guess I spoke too soon.”

Marks found himself in the same situation as Wallace, with the track closing up and little time to react.

“It’s always tough when a car wrecks and it doesn’t stay up there and starts sliding down so we all have to make a decision pretty quick whether we’re going to go high or go low,” Marks said. “When the spinning car comes down the race track you have to make that decision pretty quickly and it looks like it was a matter of luck for five or six of us whether we were going to make it through or not.”

To wreck in his first start at a mile-and-a-half track since 2011 was disappointing for Marks, especially since his No. 42 Chevy was fast all afternoon.

“I hate it for this Katerra team, all the Chip Ganassi Racing guys worked really hard this weekend and we had a really good car running solidly in the top 10,” he said. “I think we were going to have a good top-10 run but I’m back in the car next week at Phoenix and we’ll just try to finish the job there.”

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

NASCAR Chairman Brian France, Several Drivers Endorse Donald Trump

Republican Presidential front runner Donald Trump turned to key NASCAR figures on Monday for support ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries.

NASCAR CEO Brian France, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott as well as drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, and David Ragan, all gave public endorsements for the real estate mogul and reality TV star turned politician.

Trump called France to the stage at Valdosta State University (Ga.) in front of an estimated crowd of 15,000, and offered him the chance to speak before introducing the other drivers.

“I’ve known Donald for over twenty years and I’m going to tell you one thing about him: You know about his winning in business and success. I’m going tell you he wins with his family,” France told the crowd.

“Any of his children, you’d be proud to have them as part of your family. That’s how I judge a winner; how someone manages their family and raises their family.”

As the endorsement made headlines nationwide, NASCAR Vice President David Higdon told Yahoo! Sports that France’s appearance for Trump was a “private decision by Brian” and not a NASCAR endorsement.

The candidate then introduced Georgia native Bill Elliott, who Trump deemed as “one of the greatest drivers in history.”

“I’ve known him just a little bit but for what he can do, I think, for our country I’m all for it,” Elliott said. “We need a change guys, that’s all there is to it and this is the man for the job.”

His son Chase echoed the same sentiment, saying “This is a great man, and I think he’s a guy who can do some great things for us.”

Trump welcomed the endorsements with open arms in hopes of carrying momentum in southern states.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of such an iconic brand and a quality person such as Brian,” Trump said. “Brian has a wonderful family and is an incredibly successful business person. I have great respect for Brian and I am grateful for his support and that of Bill Elliott, one of the best drivers in history, and active stockcar racers, including his son Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Lee Regan (David Ragan).”

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

CHAPMAN: Knaus, Johnson Prove Strategy Still Key

Over the course of their 15 year Sprint Cup Series career together, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have won races in just about every way possible.

The duo has mastered the art of race strategy and putting themselves in a position to win, even when they don’t have the best car. Not even the new low downforce package and tire combination could keep them from using strategy to get track position and win Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

While the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet ran strong, it was evident Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. had the field covered as the race progressed. Knaus decided to go away from their regular pit schedule and short-pit, calling his driver to pit road with 50 laps to go.

It was a gutsy call, as tires were falling off quick during the long, green flag runs. While Johnson was going to have a large lead after cycling through to the front, the question remained whether he could keep his distance from the hard-charging Harvick who had nine lap fresher tires.

Even as the tires began to fall off, Johnson maintained a healthy lead as he battled through lap traffic and looked to be ready to cruise to his first victory of 2016. Although the strategy didn’t get to pay off for Johnson then as the caution flew with three laps to go, it still played a major role on their final pit stop.

Having the lead was crucial as Johnson was the first person to dive onto pit road, where he was pitted towards Turn 4. A flawless pit stop allowed him to get out first with four fresh tires, setting him up to have his choice of lane on the restart.

Choosing the inside lane was the obvious choice for Johnson, as many struggled with spinning their tires on the high side on restarts. Having the preferred lane going into Turn 1 on the lone green-white-checkered attempt set him up to walk away take his 76th win in Cup Series competition as a crash broke out behind him.

The main thing to take away from their victory is how strategy comes into play with the new aero package. Many fans expect this new aero package to produce constant side-by-side battles that yield exciting, unpredictable racing and finishes.

Though the racing is exciting and is back into the hands of the drivers, strategy is still significant in determining a team’s fate. Knaus’ perfectly executed plan was the difference in Johnson continuing to run behind the leaders in third and winning the race.

While the new aero package is sure to give us great races and finishes, we can expect to still see plenty of events won or lost based on strategy like Sunday.

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

CHAPMAN: Unlimited Crash Won’t Hinder Vickers’ Comeback

Not every comeback story ends in victory and champagne, and Brian Vickers was reminded of that early in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited.

On Lap 23, his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet cut down a right rear tire and lost control, hitting the outside SAFER barrier while collecting several cars. Vickers was visibly loose during the first segment of the race, but the flat tire was likely a result of making contact with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski earlier.

Nonetheless, it spoiled his first of several chances at winning his second career restrictor plate race. The accident, however, is not in any way going to derail the comeback of the 32-year-old driver.

It would make sense for fans and drivers to be a little skeptical of Vickers, given his lengthy absence behind the wheel due to recurring blood clots. While superspeedway racing is often described as something anyone can do, it’s important for drivers to familiarize themselves with the style of racing and get comfortable in the draft.

Little practice was needed for Vickers, as he wasted no time battling his way up from 18th to the top-five early on. He seemed to be back to his usual form of hard-nosed racing, cutting through the pack and making dicey moves that you’d expect to see with 20 laps to go. In those short 23 laps on Saturday night, Vickers proved he hasn’t lost an ounce of  determination behind the wheel and is still willing to do whatever it takes to get it done on superspeedways.

It’s evident he understands the magnitude of his opportunity and Saturday night was his first chance to once again prove himself worthy of a top ride. After the crash sent him back to the garage area earlier than he would have liked, he still seemed to be in high hopes.

“We’ll get them in the Daytona 500,” he said.

Brushing off the accident and keeping a positive mentality will be critical to how much he can make out of the coming week. No one knows what races – if any – Vickers will fill in for Tony Stewart over the coming months. If he proves himself over the rest of Speedweeks, one would assume that he’d get a little more seat time.

Given his record of health issues, however, there are concerns as to how long he can race before they might sideline him again. With that in mind, there’s no doubt the driver understands a strong week ending in victory can completely redefine his promising, yet frustrating career.

There’s no way to properly predict superspeedway racing, so it’d be absurd to say that confidence is going to win to Vickers a Daytona 500. Regardless, expect to see the No. 14 Chevrolet a legitimate contender in next Sunday’s season-opener.

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

Life After Racing All About Giving Back for Ward Burton

Ward Burton can hang his hat on many accomplishments.

A five-time winner in what was once the Winston Cup Series, he’s won marquee events including the 2001 Southern 500 and 2002 Daytona 500. But unfortunately, Burton’s career didn’t end the way he envisioned and since his final start in 2012, he’s slowly faded away.

Burton’s racing career, however, doesn’t completely define him.

After winning the AC-Delco 500 at Rockingham in 1995, Burton dedicated himself to starting the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation. His main hope was to be able to give back to something that had always played a major part in his life: the outdoors.

From a young age, he developed a strong interest in the outdoors and enjoying the many great activities and wildlife it has to offer. When creating the foundation, Burton’s main goal was to preserve land around Virginia for future generations. He also put an emphasis on educating people on what they could do to help preserve and keep the environment around them clean.

Over the last 20 years later, Burton has watched the organization grow into something he never dreamt it could. The organization has expanded throughout Virginia and has recently began working in Pennsylvania. While primarily focusing on giving back to the environment and the Earth’s natural resources, the WBWFD also works alongside the military.

“We’re lucky to have a program called ACUB (Army Compatible Use Buffer),” Burton told POPULAR SPEED. “We are the primary partners for two bases, one in Virginia and another in Pennsylvania, which are two of the top five National Guard bases in the country. We hope to not only help save lives by doing proper (firearm) training, but also protecting the military base by signing the land owners with deed restrictions and conservation easements.

“We’re helping the national armed bases, we’re protecting men and women who serve our country and practicing conservation management.”

His foundation can also purchase the properties in and around these bases to help manage the wildlife, timber, and water. Working with the military, though, goes far beyond what he’s done regarding the environment or training.

One of the biggest challenges our armed forces face is making a clean transition back into civilian life. Some veterans have difficulties coping after suffering the tragedies and hardships that come along with warfare. Burton took the initiative to have his organization work with vets in a way that allows them to have some fun with people they can relate to.

“Every event we have is surrounded on friendly little competitions including fishing, shooting, and 3-D archery. In particularly the Vietnam era, because they were so shot upon when they came back from service,” Burton explained. “When you get those individuals around others who went through similar experiences, they have an immediate comradeship.

“Every now and then, somebody that’s been living in a dark place, and they’ve really been hurting inside – not necessarily wounds that you may see – by just having a day where they’re spending time with people that’s had similar experiences, it helps.”

Burton’s work doesn’t come with a trophy or paycheck, but he does find rewards in it. The biggest is knowing he’s been able to help give veterans both a positive environment while making them feel accepted.

“Next thing you know, you get a phone call from them or a family member that says ‘I don’t know what you did to my dad, but he’s a different person,’” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Since its establishment, Burton’s foundation has protected tens of thousands of acres while continuing to grow and strengthen its relationships with military bases like Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia. He’s never taken a cent from his organization and is only in it for what he can give back.

“At the end of the day, that was the only reason I founded this, was to give back to natural resources and wildlife’s habitat,” Burton said. “It’s just been an absolute blessing and at the same time it’s going to sustain this foundation for years to come after gone.”

Outside of the WBWFD, Burton takes great pride in his family and trying to be there for them as much as he can. He can often be found at the racetrack supporting his son, Jeb, as he competed in the Sprint Cup Series in 2015.

The Burton family has been through a lot the over the last year, as his wife, Tabitha, battled cancer. It’s been a rough journey for her, but Ward is proud of how she has persevered.

“She’s been through numerous operations, some of the strongest kind of chemo that her body can take. She just had another operation (last Tuesday),” he said. “We’re hoping that’s the end of it. You never know with cancer, but we know that lady has been a fighter. She’s got a lot of people supporting her.”

Between his racing career fading into the background, his work in the foundation and his wife’s battle, Burton has been given a perspective on life very few have. He’s watched his family grow stronger and has learned to appreciate life for what it is. And he knows something unexpected can happen at any moment so it’s important to do whatever you can to help others.

“What I do know is that we have to show compassion and take care of what our priorities are and keep fighting because we’re all gonna go through things in our lives that are going to be very trying for us,” he said.

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

CHAPMAN: NASCAR In Important State of Change

History will look back to this offseason as an important time for NASCAR’s growth and evolution.

A sense of change in the sport was further solidified this past week when CEO Brian France gave his state of the industry address on MRN Radio. While his comments didn’t necessarily give out an extraordinary amount of information, it revealed that the foundation for a successful future is currently being laid.

The most talked about topic this offseason has been the ongoing discussions of a charter system for team owners. There has yet to be an official announcement or details of what that entails, but it will mean everything for the sport when introduced.

A charter system does seem like a foreign idea to many as the sport hasn’t had an ownership model in place like this before. However, it’s absolutely necessary to have this model in order to give team owners more incentive to race. Increasing costs have made it difficult for teams over the years, but this system will ensure more money for teams competing on a weekly basis from sources like television revenue. This money will not only help the teams cover the costs of racing but allow them to make their programs more competitive.

The fact that a charter system is in the near future shows that relations between NASCAR and the Race Team Alliance (RTA) are prospering.

“We’ve had a lot of good conversations with our owners over the past many months, and I don’t have to tell you how important they are as stakeholders, so what we’re always trying to do is look at their particular interests and see how to make it work better,” France said.

Most major league sports have organizations that represent the team owners and players, though they often find themselves at odds with the sanctioning body. France’s comments show that NASCAR is listening to the competitors and willing to stray away from the status quo in order to benefit the future of the sport.

Another topic  discussed was the possibility of adding a dirt race to the Sprint Cup Series schedule in the future. No matter what race fans would like to see added, nothing will be happening soon with NASCAR’s five-year sanctioning agreements with the current race tracks. These tracks do not want to share their dates and seem pleased (for the most part) with where they are right now.

This hasn’t ruled out the possibility of improving what is a mostly bland Camping World Truck Series schedule.The main highlight of the season is the Eldora dirt race in mid-July, but the sanctioning body has to introduce more short track races to make the series flourish again. France hasn’t ruled out this possibility, but it’s important that he does this quickly in order to keep fans and even sponsors interested in the series.

 “I think over time, there will be some additions,” France said.

“It’s still a great series and it has peaks and valleys like everything else, but it’s doing great and the Camping World Series is doing alive and well.”

There will be more changes coming about over the coming year as NASCAR negotiates a new sponsor for the Cup Series, which can lead to major changes in the sport. The main thing is fans have to be receptive to the changes that are taking place – like it or not.

Some aspects of change may seem confusing or a bit overwhelming, but it’s all to better the future of the sport.

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Keselowski, Larson Strong Runs Negated by Final Restart

Brad @Keselowski and @KyleLarsonRacin had nothing to lose and everything to gain during the Sprint Cup finale.

In the closing laps of the race, Keselowski led as Larson worked his way through traffic to contend for the lead. With the No. 42 gaining ground each lap, the two were bound to have a dramatic battle to close the season.

The flag man spotted a rather small piece of metal on the track and NASCAR felt it warranted a debris caution. With the field once again bunched together, both drivers’ chances of winning quickly diminished.

Keselowski took the bottom lane on the final restart, but eventual champion @KyleBusch prevailed on the high side and shuffled the No. 2 to third. Larson fell back to fifth and ultimately ended his chance at grabbing his second victory of the weekend.

After the race, Larson was left to think about what could have been had there been no caution.

“Well, I didn’t need that last caution,” Larson said. “It probably cost me or Brad (Keselowski) a win, but it did make it somewhat exciting at the end. Disappointed that we didn’t get the win because I really thought we were about two to three laps away from passing Brad for the lead.”

The loss comes as a major disappointment for Larson who is still chasing his first Sprint Cup Series win. It looked to be his best chance at a victory this season since Dover, but he accepts his fate and is ready to shift his focus.

“We will just go back next season and try and fight for some more wins,” he said.

After making a disappointing exit from the Chase in the Eliminator Round, Homestead was a last-ditch effort for Keselowski to finish the season on a high note. With only one win the entire season, it could have been the race that sent him into the 2016 season with some momentum on his side. Although he led a race-high 86 laps, he admits that he wouldn’t have been able to pull off the victory regardless of the lane he chose on the final restart.

“The last four races we have run pretty strong, maybe not quite as strong as Phoenix as we wanted but three of the four races we were really strong and we just didn’t have enough to close it at the end,” he said. “I was really proud of my team tonight, really happy with what they were able to give me and we were able to take a run at it, we just didn’t quite have enough at the end on that final restart to hold those guys off.”

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.